Midnight In Paris (2011) – or – Can that car do 88?

This film was completely not what I was expecting. The last few Woody Allen pictures I’ve seen revolve around relationships, typically set in gorgeous locations. Midnight in Paris follows the same idea, but takes us back in time to Paris in the 1920s as well.

Gil (Owen Wilson) travels to Paris with his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. Gil is a screenwriter who dreams of writing a novel, and his romantic idea of Paris seems to be inspiring him. Inez is less impressed with the city, and the two go their separate ways one evening. Gil finds himself lost in the city, and at the stroke of midnight, a car stops and he is invited for a ride. He finds himself transported to Paris in the 20’s, where he meets many of his idols, finds some inspiration, and learns a lot about himself in the process.

Right from the opening moments, we’re treated to one incredible shot after another of Paris. It’s easy to fall in love with the city in much the same way that Gil does, instantly connecting us with his point of view. Inez and her family don’t seem to care much for the romantic nature of the city, and it’s hard to understand what Gil even sees in Inez. On this side, the film seems like a bit of a failure for Woody Allen. It’s painfully obvious what is going to happen and any other outcome would only leave the viewer upset. When Gil is suddenly transported back to the 1920s, the story still doesn’t really pick up.

Gil and Inez meet up with her friends, who Gil finds obnoxious.

Gil goes on about the idea of the 20’s being the golden age of Paris. When he actually shows up in the 20’s, he finds that everyone there talks about the 1890s as the golden age. Again, not hard to see the point that is being made. Of course we always think that days gone by were better, we just don’t get to travel there and realize that people feel the same way in that time period as well. It’s just the nature of the world. Even though the overall ideas presented here are paper thin, Allen still has a way with dialogue that manages to entertain. As I had said a few reviews back for Taxi Driver, it’s not always what the film is about but how it makes you feel, and Midnight in Paris is a film that washes over you. It’s warm, romantic, sweet, and uplifting. Who cares if we can see where every character is going to end up. What is truly a pleasure is traveling there through the streets of Paris.

When Gil makes his trips back to the 20’s, he meets every famous person that he can think of. From Dali to Hemingway, Picasso to Gertrude Stein, the list is endless. I have to admit that some of the characters went over my head. I can picture someone a little more cultured than I, catching on a lot faster. That didn’t take away from the fun of watching them, but it did require a little studying on my part. A second time through the film would be much more enjoyable now. Gil also meets Adriana (Marion Cotillard), a beautiful ‘art groupie’ who is in a relationship with Picasso. This makes for some very funny moments as Gil begins to fall in love with Adriana while still engaged to Inez. I’m not sure where on the cheating scale that falls, since Adriana exists in the 20’s while Inez is in Paris in 2010.

Adriana and Gil become very close during his time in the past.

Everyone surrounding Gil in the present seems to be one dimensional, while those in the past are full of insight and wisdom, becoming fully realized characters. This provides the one surprise of the film, as everything seems to be leading to one conclusion that Gil eventually decides against. The end result isn’t too far off from what I had thought, and hoped, would happen though. Again, it’s not the story that made this one so enjoyable for me, it’s the way that it made me feel. I often find myself thinking of a previous time that was better than now, much like Gil in the film. I think this is just something that comes with age, that feeling of nostalgia that the viewer can share with Gil. It certainly helped me connect with the film, and it’s something that I wouldn’t have cared about 20 years ago.

With the gorgeous cinematography, great dialogue, and just the overall feeling that the film left me with, I would highly recommend this one. If Woody Allen’s last few films have been something that you enjoyed, there should be plenty here for you as well.

Under the marquee – Will

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